… the same thought I’ve been having since the Trayvon Martin murder trial began kept rolling around and knocking up against the frail hope I hold out that justice will reign.
Zimmerman will get off because the jury will find he did indeed fear for his life.
Not because his life was actually in danger. Zimmerman was physically bigger, had 18 months of MMA training under his belt, and a gun in his pocket. How could his life ever have been in actual danger? But because Trayvon was black, Zimmerman’s racial animus, taught to him, taught to all of us, from the moment of birth, was triggered by Trayvon’s blackness. Once he saw that Trayvon had dark skin, all those stereotypes we have about black men in our society welled up in him — they’re violent, they carry guns, they know how to fight, they steal, they cheat, they’ll kill you if you get in their way. So, when he followed Trayvon on that path, and Trayvon tired to defend himself by fighting back, Zimmerman probably did think he was going to die. Because of racism. Not because of reality.
I know this because on a smaller scale, I experience the unfounded, irrational fear of men, and black men in particular, every time a black man walks past me. The racism in me rears up before logic can dispel it. It feels like instinct, but it’s not, it’s just racism and it tells me: danger! threat! cross the street! hold your bag tighter! look hard and tough! I have trained myself to ignore these first thoughts, to hold them up to the light of reality: this man doesn’t look dangerous, he’s minding his own business, he’s smiling, he’s talking with a friend on the phone, whatever I see before me. Because I am not black and I was raised in this country, racism lives in me; it is my job to contain it, to counter it, to whittle away at it’s power. If I react from the racism I carry in me, I am responsible for the damage.
And so is Zimmerman, except, I don’t think most non-black folks, including the jury, will agree with me, see my point of view.
This is the price we pay for not dealing with the root causes of racism: dead children. Teenagers shot by scared non-black, mostly white men. Scared, mostly white men who will not ever be the same for having killed a black or brown boy. Men who will need to construct elaborate stories and justifications in order not to be crushed by the guilt, the knowledge, that surely they all have from time to time, that they ended a life that should still be inhabited.
The cost is too high, but I’m afraid we’ll keep paying it.
Will the jury find Zimmerman guilty of 2nd degree murder? A lesser charge of manslaughter? Not guilty on all counts? We will know in the coming hours, days, or weeks; but no matter what happens, we will still be crushed by the the debt of justice we owe to the thousands of dead black and brown boys who’ve lost their lives at the hands of scared white men.